If anything summed up Sunderland’s festive period, it would be their 0-0 draw with Northampton last Saturday.
The Mackems had four games postponed and clearly, a lack of match fitness had caught up with the players.
The positive for Lee Johnson was that he was able to welcome back a near fully fit squad following a bout of Covid that hit the playing staff.
In their final game of 2020, Grant Leadbitter was one of a few players that was actually available. Thus, he was someone who looked up to the pace of the game when they played the Cobblers.
It typified the club captain. Even in moments of sheer adversity and dejection, he turns up and delivers for his team.
Though, one has to wonder how long he can keep doing that. The midfielder is 34 and if Sunderland see their future above League One, they surely need to move on from him in the future.
A Mackems stalwart, it will be a sad day once he does depart but if they’re able to sign one of their January targets, they can rest a little easier.
One player Sunderland have been linked with in the last week or so is Forest Green general Carl Winchester.
The midfielder, who earns £2.4k-per-week, has caught the eye immensely in League Two and as a result, it’s hardly a surprise to see him attracting suitors from a higher division.
The 27-year-old has been a pillar of solidity for the Gloucestershire outfit and if Sunderland seal a move, he could be exactly who they need to succeed Leadbitter in the middle of the park.
Like the experienced Black Cat, Winchester is a defensive midfielder and he’s held in incredibly high esteem.
Rovers boss Mark Cooper said in February 2020: “He’s a Championship player and if I was a Championship manager, he’d be one of the first players I would take.”
Cooper continued: “He’s a top, top player and should be playing at a much higher level. He’s at least a seven and a half out of ten each week and the dangerous thing for us, he’s started scoring goals and if he adds those goals to his game, he’s a complete midfield player.”
A dynamic operator, he could add a greater deal of fluidity and athleticism to Lee Johnson’s side.
For a manager keen on adding further players who can stretch the play, this can only be a good thing. Kristjaan Speakman must conclude a deal.